Thursday, May 25, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Trevor & Vincent & One Stabby Little Bird

Today I’m looking back at a scene from Salvation, book 5 in my Firsts and Forever Series. This is Trevor and Vincent’s story, and this scene happens very early on in their relationship, when they’re still getting to know each other. It’s a bit of comic relief, and it’s based on something that actually happened to me. More about that at the end of this post!


In this scene, Trevor has just arrived at a beautiful house on the California coast, where a friend is getting married in a couple days. His love interest, Vincent Dombruso, is outside working on the landscaping, and Trevor decides to go out and say hello. But the smooth entrance he’s hoping for is disrupted by one tiny, pointy little bird. J

I sighed and put the phone in my pocket, then went back through the house and stepped out the French doors. Vincent’s back was still to me. He wore nothing but a pair of khaki shorts and white sneakers, his olive skin glistening with sweat, the powerful muscles in his back and shoulders working as he trimmed a vine. Two thin cords ran from earbuds to what was probably an iPod in his pocket. He had no idea I was there, and since he was holding a huge set of clippers I thought it was probably best not to startle him.
As I waited for him to notice me, I took in my surroundings. The huge, perfectly manicured lawn was surrounded by colorful flowerbeds full of exotic-looking blooms, mostly in shades of red, yellow and orange. I recognized clusters of birds of paradise and huge stands of bougainvilleas, but not much else, since plants really weren’t my area of expertise. The garden ended abruptly, giving way to a sheer cliff face and an unobstructed view of the Pacific, which was maybe sixty feet below. It was all just stunningly beautiful and tranquil too, thanks to the steady sound of waves breaking in the little cove below and the almost alien whir of hummingbirds darting among the flowers.
Suddenly, one of the tiny hummingbirds appeared a few feet in front of me, its glassy little eyes staring at me as its wings beat so quickly they were a blur. It was cute, until the thing decided to get a closer look at me. Hummingbirds move incredibly fast, so in a split-second it was right in my face, that long, needle-like beak inches from my eye.
That freaked me out a bit and I yelled reflexively, waving my hands to try to chase it off as I dodged to my right. This didn’t deter the bird, though. Just the opposite. It actually became even more interested in me and swooped in for another close look. Okay, no! I yelled again and started bobbing and  weaving around the lawn, swinging my arms wildly. I really didn’t want to smack the bird away, but at the same time I wasn’t about to stand still while it figured out that my eyeball wasn’t actually full of nectar.
For some reason, part of my brain was yelling at me to stop, drop, and roll. I don’t know why. The hummingbird wasn’t on fire or anything. But I still went with it, flopping down on the grass and rolling back and forth like a crazy person. The tiny hummingbird dive-bombed me a couple times, its distinctive hum buzzing in my ears as I yelled, “No, quit it! Get away!”
A shadow fell across me and the bird took off like a shot. I stopped rolling and looked up at Vincent as I said, “Please tell me you saw the hummingbird.”
“I did. What were you and he doing, exactly?”
“Well, I assume he was trying to suck the fluid from my eyeball, and I was trying to prevent that from happening,” I told him as I sat up. The grass had apparently just been mowed and watered, judging by the fact that I was totally green with grass stains and lawn clippings, in addition to being completely soaked.
Vincent grinned, just a little, and held his hand out to me. When I took it, he hoisted me to my feet. “Aside from antagonizing the local wildlife, what are you doing here, Trevor?”
“Well, it’s like this. Apparently, your grandmother watched a few too many Disney movies and fancies herself a bit of a fairy godmother. She bought me a new wardrobe, loaded me up in a carriage – in the form of a rented town car – and sent me off after Prince Charming.” I knit my brows and said, “Well crap, I suppose in this analogy I’m Cinderella. I should have thought that through before I started down the fairy tale path.”

*****

So, here’s what inspired that story. For a while after graduate school, I lived in a nice little apartment complex in Sacramento, California. It consisted of several two-story buildings arranged in a parklike setting with trees and flowers and little paths running between them.

There was just one path to get to my apartment from the parking lot. And one day, I found that path guarded by a little blackbird. It swooped and dove at me when I walked by, and I thought, “Ah, okay, I bet she’s protecting her nest.” No biggie. I ran past and made it to my apartment.

But the bird attack continued. Every time I walked on that path, I had to duck and bob and weave to try to avoid the tiny dive-bomber. This went on for weeks! And here’s the thing: I’d stand back and watch as dozens of other people used the path and went by the bird’s tree, and nothing would happen! They were able to pass without incident, but as soon as I appeared, look out! The thing would wait for me, and dive at me every single time I walked to or from my apartment! My neighbors would stop and stare, and they’d often ask me, “What did you do to piss it off?” Noooooothing!

It became a running joke with my coworkers. One of them bought me a big, plastic caveman club so I could fight off the bird. I considered carrying a tennis racket (and no, I never harmed a feather on its empty little head, but I did fantasize about it)!

Then one day, as abruptly as it began, the dive-bombing stopped. I don’t know what ever became of that psychotic little bird, or why it finally gave up its rampage. I also have no idea why it singled me out in the first place. I never forgot it though, and many years later, it found its way into one of my books. I decided to make it a hummingbird, because I’m dumb enough to have a hummingbird feeder right beside my front door, and the sight and sound of one of those little things flying at you with that long, pointy beak is just this side of terrifying. But unlike that unhinged bird in Sacramento, the hummingbirds have been smart enough to identify me as a friend, not a foe.



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Along Came Nana




Nana Dombruso first appeared on the pages of my Firsts and Forever Series in February, 2013. The book was All In, #2 in the series. I wanted a bit of comic relief to balance out some of the heavier elements in Dante and Charlie’s story, so I decided to give Dante a zany, free-spirited grandmother. I knew right from the beginning that I’d created something special in Nana Dombruso.

Nana is a feisty, hilarious senior citizen with no filter and a knack for getting into trouble. I love the fact that she makes people laugh. It means the world to me when my readers tell me they laugh out loud while reading one of Nana’s scenes, and that it brightens their day.

But she’s more than just funny. Nana loves unconditionally. She’s a bold, tireless champion of LGBT+ rights, and she adores her “gay homosexual” grandsons and all the boys she’s taken under her wing over the years. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the people she loves.

People often ask me if Nana is based on someone I know. Sadly, no. I wish I did know someone like her, because Nana is the very best of us. She’s bold and brave, and she has a boundless capacity for love. In many ways, she’s a tiny superhero, out trying to right the wrongs of the world by any means necessary. She has no superpowers though, outside of a huge heart and a burning desire to make the world a better place.

Who among us hasn’t wished we could take on the ugliness and hate we see every time we turn on the news or pick up a paper? In that regard, Nana is pure wish fulfillment. She does the things we can’t do, because we fear the repercussions. Nana fears nothing.

Over the past four years, Nana has found her way into a lot of hearts, and I’m so grateful for that. She’s the character I hear about more than any other, and I wouldn’t dare leave her out of a book. She’s been in every one of them since her debut in All In.

Once in a while, I get a worried or even tearful message from a reader seeking reassurance. They tell me they’re concerned, because Nana’s getting older, and they can’t bear the thought of anything happening to her. But that’s the lovely thing about writing fiction, friends. Nana never has to grow old, or slow down in any way. The series is open-ended, so Nana can keep on going forever, and we all get to keep sharing a laugh with her and waiting to see what she’ll do next.

The following is a classic Nana scene from Skye Blue, where she takes matters into her own hands at an anti-LGBT rally (after helping found-object metal sculptor Skye retrieve a treasure from a dumpster):

Between the three of us guys, and with Nana giving instructions and acting as drill sergeant, we managed to get the canister into the limo, though a good four feet or so were sticking out the sun roof, angled toward the front of the vehicle. As we were dusting off our clothes and hands, she stepped back and said, “Well ain’t that a humdinger.”
“What is it, Nana?” I asked.
She tilted her head to the side and said, “Is it just me, or does that thing look an awful lot like a great, big weenie dongle from this angle? I hadn’t noticed it before, but now that it’s jutting up in the air like that, well, it kind of looks like the limo is happy to see us.”
I took a couple steps back and realized she was exactly right, in part because the end of the cylinder had a rounded cap on it. The limo looked like it had popped a huge metal stiffie. Christian chuckled and said, “That’s awesome,” before getting in the back seat.
We finished doing the circuit of my favorite South City manufacturers in the Bonermobile, then returned to San Francisco, where we encountered some kind of road block as we were cutting through the Sunset District. Traffic was a snarled mess, and Freddy got a bit flustered and somehow took a wrong turn into Golden Gate Park. As soon as we rounded the corner, the limo came to an abrupt stop behind a wall of people.
On one side of the street, a crowd of antigay protesters with bullhorns had assembled. A knot formed in my stomach as I read the hate spelled out on their picket signs. On the opposite sidewalk, some people had joined hands and were singing to try to drown out the bile being spewed by those hatemongers. A huge crowd of bystanders was gathered around the two groups, including a contingent of police officers and several camera crews from various TV stations.
“Ah shit,” Freddy muttered as he looked in the rearview mirror at a couple cars that had pulled in behind him. “I shouldn’t have turned onto this street, we’re really stuck now. I think we’re gonna need assistance to get back out of here. Hang on, I’m gonna go ask that cop if he can clear a path for us.”
He hopped out of the limo as Christian glared at the protesters and muttered, “Fucking assholes, trying to hide behind the Bible as an excuse for spreading hate. I’m going to join the chorus. I’ll see you guys later.” He left by the side door and ran to the counter-protesters, linking hands with a little red-haired girl at the edge of the group and singing along loudly. A minute later, a little old African American man who must have been in his nineties took Christian’s other hand, and a moment after that they were joined by a gay couple in their thirties, and a young straight family with a baby, and a middle-aged woman with a determined look in her eyes. All those different people coming together was so beautiful in the face of such ugliness that it made tears prickle at the back of my eyes.
I turned toward Nana to tell her I was going to join Christian and the group on the sidewalk, and was startled by the intense rage on her face. “How come they’re allowed to do that?” she asked, gesturing at the haters. “How come they can get out their bullhorns and condemn people like my grandsons, and you, and everyone that happens to be gay?”
“Well, because it’s a free country, Nana. They can say whatever they want.”
“I know that. But who says they get to speak for God? Look at that sign. It says gay people are going to burn in hell! How dare they sit in judgment like that?”
“I hate it too, Nana. Believe me. But they have a right to assemble.”
“Yeah? Well then, I have a right to disassemble.” Before I could ask her what she meant, she climbed behind the wheel of the limo, hit the automatic door locks, and scooted the driver’s seat so far forward that she was now almost pressed up against the windshield. I was about to ask what she was doing when she put the limo in gear and we started to roll forward.
There were so many people around us that she could only creep ahead an inch at a time. She said, “This is no good. I gotta get people out of the way if this is gonna work, but they don’t even know we’re behind them. Oh hang on, I have an idea.” She grabbed a CD from the glove compartment and stuck it in the player. As shuffle engaged, she flipped a couple switches, then cranked the volume as high as it would go. Apparently, the limo had an external speaker system.
Then I found out what Nana meant by disassemble.
As Elton John’s ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ filled the air, all the bystanders around the vehicle turned to look at us and then stepped out of the way. Nana rolled forward, headed right for the hatemongers. She was only going a couple miles an hour, which was a relief. But she was definitely going.
The group on the other side of the street sent up a cheer when they realized what was happening, and then they all started singing along to the Elton John song. I climbed up on my seat so I could see what was going on, sticking out of the sunroof from the waist up beside the giant pink dick. Before me, the ‘religious wrong’ was running onto the sloping green lawn behind them. Nana rolled right over their picket signs as they dropped them and I laughed and let out a war cry. Then I decided to add some gay pride to Nana’s one-woman parade, so I peeled off my t-shirt and started dancing to the music with my arms raised over my head.
Nana was only creeping along behind the protesters. They could have easily stepped out of the way, so it was kind of funny how totally freaked out they were. Maybe the giant pink boner had something to do with their panic. Those people must have a real problem with cock.
We rolled slowly down the grassy hill, but when we tried to roll back up and out of the little valley, the long limousine got stuck. Actually, it wedged in so snugly that it would probably take a crane to lift it back out. But that was okay. The ride of Nana Rae had been a total triumph.
The haters, realizing we were stuck, started to run toward us. Fortunately, a huge ring of police officers, reporters and cameramen reached us first. When we got out, we were immediately pushed up against the limo and frisked. “Well damn,” Nana exclaimed as a big, burly cop patted her down, “this is more action than I’ve seen since the Clinton administration.”
 Several reporters surged forward, despite the efforts of the police to keep them back, and Nana started giving interviews left and right. When asked why she’d chased the protesters, she said, “I got two gay homosexual grandsons, and one that’s bi-homosexual, and I don’t want nobody sitting in judgment and telling ‘em they’re going to hell for being the way God made ‘em.” Then she added, “Their brother, my grandson Mikey, I don’t know about. I always assumed he was straight, though I did find some giant condoms of his once, and now that I think about it, maybe those belonged to one of his lovers, because they sure as hell wouldn’t fit on his little tootsie roll.”
“What’s your name?” a reporter yelled.
“Mrs. Stana Dombruso, but everyone calls me Nana,” she said as her hands were cuffed behind her.
Someone asked her, “Were you trying to run over the protesters?”
“Of course not,” she exclaimed. “We were just exercising our right to disassemble!”


*****

Nana will be back in All I Ever Wanted, the next book in my Firsts and Forever Series, which has a tentative release date of June 10th.





Thursday, May 11, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Locations Real and Imagined, and Sometimes Both

Although I write fiction, I like grounding my stories in real locations. My Firsts and Forever Series is set in San Francisco because it’s a city I know well. I lived right in the heart of it for five years in the 1990s, and even though a lot of time has passed, I love the fact that it’s still so familiar whenever I go back for a visit. 
 
Every now and then, I do make up a location, such as Villadembursa in Sicily. That’s the town where Nana Dombruso was born, and where she, Jessie and Nico went on vacation in All I Believe. I did actually research the coast of Sicily extensively before writing that book, but since I was making up its history, I didn’t want to use a real town. 

And occasionally, I send my characters to a real place I have yet to visit. That was the case with the Old Faithful Inn and Yellowstone National Park. I wrote about it in Coming Home, book nine in my Firsts and Forever Series, and I did a lot of research before I sent Chance, Finn, Colt and Elijah there. I studied the lodge in detail from photographs and watched videos of Old Faithful geyser and the surrounding environment. I even looked up menus for the dining room. It was important to me to be as accurate as possible in describing this iconic location. 


Old Faithful Geyser (all photos by Alexa Land)

A lot of those details didn’t make it into the book. I didn’t want to bog down the story line by over-describing the setting. But it was important to me to have a strong understanding of where my characters were. That made them feel more real to me. And I think when they feel real to the author, they also feel real to the reader.

Exterior Shots of the Old Faithful Inn by Alexa Land

I’ve always loved our national parks and their rustic lodges, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit many of them. Crater Lake, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite are particular favorites. But it wasn’t until earlier this week that I finally made it to Yellowstone and saw the park and the Old Faithful Inn for myself. My son and I spent four days there and stayed at the historic inn. As we were eating in the dining room one night, I had this feeling almost of déjà vu. But it was more than that. 

It was a feeling of two worlds coming together, the one in my books and the one I live in. I could pick out the exact table where my characters had been dining in Coming Home, even though that detail hadn’t made it into the book. I was seated just two tables over. It was so easy to imagine Chance and Finn and Colt and Elijah sitting there, enjoying their first dinner as a family.

 The Historic Dining Room at the Old Faithful Inn, photo by Alexa Land


In the following scene from Coming Home, my characters have decided to stop off at Yellowstone and the Old Faithful Inn on their way home from Chance’s ill-fated road trip. Chance and Finn are just starting out as a couple, and they’re bringing Chance’s kid brother Colt and Colt’s boyfriend Elijah back to California with them, after finding out the boys have been living on their own and barely surviving for the past several months:

We all grabbed our backpacks before the boys and I  followed Finn into the breathtaking lobby. It was a rustic composition of dark wood and high ceilings, with four tiers of balconies opening around a huge common area dominated by an absolutely enormous rock fireplace. 

“Holy shit,” Elijah whispered. His eyes were huge as he looked around, and he held on to Colt’s arm with both hands. 

“This is amazing,” my brother said. He turned to Finn and asked, “Are you rich?”

Finn shook his head, a look of amazement on his face as he took in our surroundings. “Not by a long shot,” he said, his eyes traveling up the absolutely gigantic fireplace. 

After Finn checked in, we dropped our backpacks in our room and headed out to explore. I took out my phone and snapped a few candid shots of the boys. Elijah was really shy and never let go of Colt, practically hiding behind him as we negotiated the clusters of people outside. They seemed even more childlike in this setting as they reacted to everything with wonder. “Let me get a picture of the three of you,” I told my companions, framing up a shot with the lodge in the background.

A voice beside me said, “Why don’t you get in the picture, too?” 

I turned to look at the older woman with short silver hair and an engaging smile, and said, “Yeah, okay,” before handing over my phone. 

I stood between Colt and Finn with Elijah on Colt’s opposite side, and we all smiled for the camera. The woman took several shots, and when she gave the phone back, she told me, “You have a beautiful family.”

“Thank you,” I said softly. When she’d gone, I scrolled through the pictures she’d taken. We really did look like a family. A non-traditional one, sure, but no less a family. I stared at the screen for a long moment and smiled before turning to Finn. He took my hand, which surprised me a little since we were in public, but he just grinned at me.

 “What’s going on over there?” Colt asked, indicating a crowd that was gathering a short distance away. 

“Let’s go see,” I said, and we joined the spectators. I knew what we were looking at, but the boys didn’t so I decided to let them be surprised.

“It’s about to happen,” someone nearby exclaimed as we found a spot at the edge of the wide walkway. 

“Wait for it,” I murmured, and winked at Colt when he glanced at me. He turned back around just in time to watch Old Faithful erupt, shooting steam and water a hundred and forty feet into the air.

My brother exclaimed, “Oh my God,” as the crowd cheered. Elijah clapped and let out a burst of surprised laughter before grabbing Colt’s hand. 

Finn looked no less enchanted. He had a huge, delighted smile on his face, his eyes bright and sparkling. I took a few pictures so I could always remember him in that moment of perfect happiness. I snapped a few of the geyser, too, but Finn was more captivating.

The eruption lasted about two minutes, and when it was over, the crowd applauded before beginning to disperse. “I can’t believe I just saw Old Faithful!” Colt exclaimed. “I heard about it and saw pictures, like, a billion times, but seeing it for real was epic!” He turned to Finn and said, “Thanks for bringing us here.”

“You’re welcome. Come on, let’s explore a bit before it gets dark,” Finn said. 

A few people stared at us as we strolled on the walkways through the steaming, bubbling geyser field, since Finn and I were once again holding hands. Fuck ‘em. Whenever someone tried to give us a disapproving look, I stared them down, and Finn ignored them. The boys followed our example and held hands too, and Colt did the same thing I was doing, glaring at anyone that dared look at him judgmentally. He caught me grinning at him at one point, and said, “Finn’s really big. If anyone hassles us, he can punch ’em in the face.”

Finn chuckled at that. “I could, but I’m not going to.”

When it started to get dark, we went to dinner in the lodge’s big dining room, which was decorated in the same woodsy style as the rest of the place. I probably looked a little shell-shocked when I saw the prices on the menu, and Finn must have noticed because he said, “Dinner’s on me. Order anything you want. That goes for all of you.” Colt and Elijah thanked him excitedly, while I mentally added the boys’ and my meals to the ever-increasing running total of all I owed Finn. 

I just ordered a bowl of soup, but the boys went nuts and ordered a ton of food. After their diet of fast food and ramen I could see why they’d be excited, and I didn’t try to discourage them. They were both so skinny, and it was their first real meal in ages. 

Somehow, they both polished off dessert after their huge dinners, and then my brother moaned and said, “Oh man, I’m so full that I could pop like a tick! Is it okay if we go lay down in the room?” 

“Sure,” I said, and handed Colt my key.

Elijah pushed back from the table. He’d said next to nothing throughout the meal, but now he glanced at Finn from under his lashes and said quietly, “Thank you, sir. That was the best meal I ever ate.”

 Interior shots of the Old Faithful Inn: the lobby and the stone fireplace; 
the log construction in the original part of the building. Photos by Alexa Land

*****
Aw, I love those boys! I’m looking forward to writing Elijah’s book sometime in this next year, and Colt’s book after that. 

As always, thank you for reading.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Throwback Thursday: A Lifelong Love Affair with Art

The fact that art is important to me probably isn't news to anyone who's read my Firsts and Forever Series, since my books are laced with artists. In order to explain why, I need to share a fair amount of my personal history, so I hope you’ll bear with me. :) 

Throughout my childhood and teen years, I was always drawing. My favorite thing was cartooning, and in high school, I spent countless hours drawing comic books for my best friend, mostly because I loved to make her laugh. But because I was sure I’d never make a living as an artist, I put away my drawing pencils and opted to study other subjects in college and graduate school.

A few years later, around the time I was turning thirty, I started to miss the part of me I’d given up, and I began to take art and animation classes several nights a week, after work. I also became involved in San Francisco’s animation community. I was lucky enough to land two jobs in the animation field while I was still a student.

When I moved from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, I changed my focus a bit and started studying graphic design, since animation jobs were few and far between. Again, I got lucky and landed a job working as the graphic designer for a start-up, family-owned adventure sports magazine. Because I had strong writing skills, I was soon asked to edit the stories submitted to the magazine, and I even began writing a monthly column, in addition to serving as the magazine’s entire art department.

I stuck with that job for quite a while, until I decided to become a parent. Then, for the next few years, I focused on my child as a stay-at-home mom. But because I’m the kind of person who always has to have a creative outlet, I also started writing, usually late at night, after my son and then-husband went to bed. At first, it was just for me. But when my son was about nine, I took a chance and published my first book.

Jump ahead four years, and here I am, with a writing career I absolutely adore. I was thinking about that recently and asking myself how writing had so thoroughly supplanted drawing as my life’s passion. And then I had an epiphany: I’ve been a storyteller all my life. As a little kid, my drawings were always accompanied by verbal narratives, even before I knew how to write. When I was a teen, I channeled my energy into writing and illustrating comic books. Later on, when I decided to study animation, it was because I wanted to make movies. The medium may have changed, and changed again, but at the heart of it, there’s always been the same undeniable need: to tell stories.

So now I write, and often, I write artists. To me they’re fascinating people, and I think I understand what drives them. The first artist I wrote was Christopher Robin. I introduced him in All In, the second book in the series, and made him the main character in book 3, In Pieces. That opened the door to write a couple more artists, his friends and classmates Skye (my main character in Skye Blue) and Christian (the main character in Against the Wall). Christopher is a painter, and his photorealistic oil paintings are similar in tone and style to those of Andrew Wyeth. Meanwhile, Skye is a found-object metal sculptor, and Christian is a graffiti artist.


(this is the background image I used on the cover of Against the wall)

The three characters met at Sutherlin, a private art college. Random fact: while a lot of my San Francisco locations are real, Sutherlin is not. The name is borrowed from a small town in southern Oregon, a couple hours north of me. Its only significance in my life is that I always stop there for coffee whenever I drive to Portland. :)

Sutherlin is loosely based on Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida (though without Florida's decidedly tropical feel). Flagler is a four-year liberal arts college with a well-respected art program. When I was in St. Augustine about five or six years ago, I walked past the absolutely breathtaking campus and noticed a young guy sitting high up on a brick wall, lost in thought as he drew on a big sketch pad. And I remember thinking what a dream come true it would be to get to study art someplace so beautiful.

I think the essence of that guy with the sketch pad has informed several of my characters. Maybe it’s wish fulfillment in a way. My characters are doing what I didn’t when I made the decision to study something more ‘practical’ in college: they’re plunging into the art world headlong without worrying about failure. They’re following their passion. And maybe I’m living vicariously through them, even though I really believe my winding career path has led me exactly where I need to be.

Below is the opening scene from Against the Wall, the 7th book in my Firsts and Forever Series. The main character, Christian, is a street artist along the lines of Banksy, though he works on a much larger scale. Christian is trying to bring beauty to a bleak urban landscape, and his spray-painted murals are meant to convey messages of hope. I love this character, because he has so much courage.


It was time to go.

It was past time, actually. I knew this. But even as part of my brain was chanting come on, come on, come on, another part was thinking almost there, just one more minute, that’s all I need. The part of my brain that promised one more minute was a liar. One minute always turned into two, then five, then ten. 

I shook the can of pink paint in my hand. According to the label, it wasn’t actually pink. It was Ferocious Fuchsia. Who named these things? I stretched up as high as I could, the pile of pallets beneath me swaying just a bit, and brought my arm around in a wide arc as I pushed the nozzle with my index finger. The oh-so-familiar smell of spray paint flooded my senses and with my free hand, I tugged the black bandana that was wrapped around my face up an inch, so that it covered my nose completely. 

With a few quick movements, I used the pink paint to highlight the enormous face of a young girl, just beginning to take shape on the back wall of a condemned apartment building. Then I leaned back a bit to assess the mural, which was tough to do in the dim light. It didn’t help that I was wearing sunglasses, both to protect my eyes from the paint and to hide my face from the security cams that dotted the city. My unsteady perch wobbled, and I crouched down a bit to lower my center of gravity.

Leave it, Christian, you can come back later. You know you’ve been here too long. The rational part of my brain always lost out to the adrenaline junkie though, the ‘one more minute’ part of me that needed to be here, painting, creating, all while on high alert, just waiting for the police or some random street thug to roll up on me.

That adrenaline rush was as much a part of it as the need to make art. I knew that about myself. I probably could go through legal channels and get permission for my murals, but where was the thrill in that? I absolutely lived for this. I really didn’t want to get caught, though. Jail was so not part of the plan.

Given that, it was incredibly stupid that I was out here so early on a Friday night. It wasn’t even one a.m. The city wasn’t asleep yet, not fully, but I’d been obsessed with this painting all week. I saw it so clearly in my mind’s eye, this little girl in a field of daisies, and I needed to make her real. Well, little wasn’t quite the right word. By the time I was finished, she’d be almost twenty feet high.

*****

I'll leave you with a link to little trailer I made for Christian's book, because I really felt it needed a visual component. You can find it here. As always, thanks for reading!